If you’re looking for our usual sarcastic recap of current events, clever takedown of feckless politicians, or restaurant news, you’ve come to the wrong place. We’re briefly stepping down from the pulpit to talk about something important: freedom of speech, and why you should support it.
Freedom of speech is a fundamental human right. You could argue it underpins all other human rights. Without the ability to speak up against unfair labor conditions, discrimination, and a whole litany of other issues, democratic societies would never have established limited work weeks, key health and safety standards, universal suffrage, and so many other rights we often take for granted. Freedom of speech leads to growth and change, almost always for the better.
With that settled, let’s talk about why that matters now.
In case you’re just tuning in to our recurring national tragicomedy, protestors, largely led by the young, have been attacked, threatened, jailed, and beaten for standing up for something that really isn’t very radical: the right to speak their minds and assemble. The reforms they have demanded have evolved in many ways. Some might not like those demands. But the beautiful thing about freedom of speech is people can have views that you disagree with, you can say as much, and that’s okay. Everyone has the right to voice dissenting opinions, too.
Freedom of speech makes us better, more empathetic listeners. Discourse and healthy debate make us better people. Unfortunately, Thailand does not enjoy true freedom of speech. As of 2019, the country ranked 140 in the World Press Index. News flash: that’s bad. Journalists often risk harsh reprisals like arbitrary detention, jail time, and even physical harm for reporting on some of the biggest issues affecting the nation. Sometimes, they face suspension for simply doing their jobs. Like this morning, when the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission ordered four news outlets—Prachathai, The Reporters, The Standard, and Voice TV—as well as student activist group Free Youth, to suspend live broadcasting and delete content for violating the new state of emergency
. (You can read more about that on Coconuts
Thailand also has nasty defamation laws that regularly get contorted by business or personal interests and lead to criminal charges (which happens to be the reason Team BK is giving Koh Chang hotels a hard pass for a while). You might think we’re just a brash food, lifestyle, and travel magazine whose opinions mean little to nothing. You’d be wrong (see what we did there, disagreeing with you?). And yet even lifestyle magazines like BK often have to muzzle themselves. That doesn’t help you, a public that relies on media for fair, accurate, and up-to-date information.
What we’re getting at is this: by supporting freedom of speech, you’re supporting the freedom to progress as a nation. You’re supporting equality and equity for everyone, the right to say “we need to change before our country falls too far behind its peers,” the right to question economic policies and decision-making, the dream to be better tomorrow than we are today.
Disagree with the protest movement? That’s fine. You do you. But we all should support their right to speak up for what they believe in, and the right of media organizations to share news about the movement with you. That’s real pride in your nation. That’s patriotism.